Custody of the family pet as a negotiation tool in a divorce? Divorce can involve much more than property disputes and ways to carve up assets and debts. If you are concerned about what is going to happen to Fido when the split occurs, you are not alone. After all, about half of marriages in this country wind up in divorce, and over 60% of households have a pet. So, when the marriage comes to an end, where do the cuddly creatures wind up?
It can be a Battle if You Both Love the Family Pet
If you are a pet owner, you may not find it hard to believe that many individuals cannot imagine life without coming home to a wagging tail or a purring pet. Many people have extremely tight connections with their family pet. Particularly when they have been in a loveless marriage, people tend to look for affection and comfort from the non-judgmental, unfiltered adoration of their pets. When both partners have that kind of bond with a pet, there is a good possibility that neither will feel good about losing that connection, and the courts may have to intervene.
Using a Family Pet as Leverage in a Divorce
Sometimes only one partner is particularly attached to the family pet, and the other partner knows it and uses that information as a weapon in the divorce. Nasty divorces are certainly not the exception. If you cherish your pet, do not be surprised if your vengeful spouse uses it as a negotiation tool. The threat to gain custody in order to get you to give up something of financial value is not unheard of. Do not give in to extortion. California is a community property state. The pet is worth a certain dollar amount, in many cases not more than the value of your patio furniture. Do not be bullied into giving up the equity in your home to keep your furry friend.
Keeping Your Family Pet
If it comes down to a judicial decision, several factors will come into play in determining pet custody. In many ways, the court considers what is in the best interest of the pet:
- Is there a prenuptial agreement dealing with custody? If so, that may solve the problem.
- Did one of you own the pet prior to getting married? If so, that person may have a stronger claim to the pet.
- Who is the pet’s primary caregiver? The feeding, medical care, and cleanup responsibilities may indicate that one person is a better or more consistent caregiver. You could get evidence of this, such as letters from neighbors attesting to the fact that you regularly walk the pooch, or a note from the vet extolling your fantastic pet-parenting skills. Even receipts from the pet store showing that you made pet purchases, or the pet license with your signature on it are indicators that you are the primary individual who cares for your pet.
- Whose life is best equipped to handle a pet? Where you live, the hours away from home, and the travel schedule you keep are all under consideration in a contested pet-custody case.